NSF offers $25 million grant to create biological machines

The National Science Foundation has awarded three U.S. universities $25 million to establish new centers that will advance research on biological machines.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $25 million grant to establish the Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems Center at three major research universities in the U.S., with the intent to advance research on biological machines.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Georgia Institute of Technology are the receipients of the grant, which will also allow for the creation of educational programs and the engagement of underrepresented minorities in the field.

To engineer these sophisticated, programmed, multicellular biological machines, EBICS researchers will first work to better understand the individual properties and mechanisms of individual cells and cell types. Then they'll move on to studying the collective behaviors of cell clusters, and finally, create simple cellular factories that perform specific functions.

"Ultimately, we envision being able to create biological modules — sensors, processors, actuators — that can be assembled in various ways to produce different capabilities," Kamm said in a statement. "If successful, this will open up an entirely new field of research with wide-ranging implications, ranging from regenerative medicine to developmental biology."

The effort will also include a graduate program to help engineers learn biological science and biologists learn engineering.

The center is one of five new NSF Science and Technology Center awards resulting from a recent, merit-based competition.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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